LORAIN — More than 6,700 flags will cover a hill in front of a Lorain church today to honor American military personnel who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Volunteers from the Lorain Lighthouse United Methodist Church on Meister Road will plant the small American flags.
The first-time commemoration was conceived by the Rev. Lisa Morrison and church member Carol Matthews.
“We worked hard at how we can connect with the community,” Morrison said. “Carol said, ‘Memorial Day needs to be more than a three-day weekend to go to picnics.’ We wanted to connect people with the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“We thought 6,717 flags placed in a very small area should be a really powerful visual,” Morrison said.
The number of flags equals the number of U.S. service personnel who have died in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
One of the flags will have special meaning for the church and its members. It will represent the life of Lorain’s Eric Barnes, 20, an Air Force Airman 1st Class who was killed June 10, 2007, by an improvised explosive device attack on an Air Force convoy he was part of as it traveled about 100 miles south of Baghdad.
Barnes was on his second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of his death.
“Eric was well-loved by so many in our congregation,” Morrison said. “There is a lot of patriotic support here.”
Barnes’ mother, Shary Barnes, serves as church secretary for the 500-member church, which resulted from the merger of three smaller, struggling United Methodist congregations in 2008, Morrison said.
Barnes’ father, Tom, and a brother, Dale, also attend the church.
Barnes is one of five Lorain natives who have lost their lives to the Iraq-Afghanistan wars. “It’s so nice to have a community like Lorain to support and honor them,” Morrison said.
Barnes was honored in 2012 with the Eric Barnes Heroes Walk which links Lorain’s Settlers Watch and the Admiral King memorial.
Flags will begin to be placed on the hillside at 4:30 p.m., although people may show up to start the process earlier, Morrison said.
“I have no idea how long it will take to put out that many flags,” she said.
A brief service will be 6:30 p.m. at the site.
Morrison’s husband, Tim, serves as associate pastor at Elyria’s First United Methodist Church.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.